I’ve just had a look at some reports released this week at the iNACOL Virtual School Symposium. Each report provides some interesting persepectives on what is happening at the school level, and the tertiary level in the US. While the context is different, there are some clear messages here that we can be taking notice of in NZ (see my note at the bottom of this post).
The first report is from iNACOL itself, titled “A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning” which suggests the biggest emerging trends in online learning include the growth of (US) district-led online schools, the expansion of blended (or hybrid) learning, and the acceptance of mobile learning.
In talking about blended learning, the report describes two approaches. The first is defined as a “buffet model,” where a student takes traditional face-to-face course and also enrolls in one or more online courses. The second is an “emporium model” in which face-to-face courses that implement elements of online learning. Both models are growing according to the iNACOL report.
The second report is from the Sloan Foundation. Titled Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010, it is their is their eighth annual survey of online education in colleges and universities. According to the survey, 2010 showed the largest ever year-to-year increase in the number of students studying online, with nearly thirty percent of all college and university students now take at least one course online in the US. Other report findings include:
- Almost two-thirds of for-profit institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long term strategy.
- The 21%growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
- Nearly one-half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs.
- Three-quarters of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses and programs.
Despite the growth of online and blended learning, policy and access barriers still exist for many students who wish to take an online course or attend an online school, and for many educators who seek to start an online program. A continuing need exists for policymakers to develop a framework to allow and encourage online and blended teaching and learning to enhance, expand, and transform learning. Online learning has proven to be meaningful to students, igniting their passion for learning using real-world applications, stimulating their creativity and innovation, and communicating on the global stage—taking teachers and students beyond the class walls and beyond the class period in order to open new possibilities for both teaching and learning.
Reading these reports suggests emphatically that:
- online and blended learning is now gaining considerable traction in our schools, so schools need to be taking seriously the opportunity for engaging with this, and
- some serious work is required that involves knowledgeable people to create the supporting policy frameworks to allow this growth to continue.